SACRAMENTO, Calif.: Voters have chance to speak on war

State representatives and senators voted to place withdrawal from Iraq before California voters on the Feb. 5, 2008, presidential primary ballot. Voters would be the first in the country to speak up statewide on the Iraq war.

The bill, SB 924, now sits on Republican Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger’s desk. If he signs the bill or does nothing, voters get the chance to vote on ending the “occupation and achieve the immediate, complete, safe and orderly withdrawal of United States forces” and that the United States provide “diplomatic and nonmilitary assistance to promote peace and stability in Iraq and in the Middle East.” If he vetoes it, the measure goes back to the State Assembly, muzzling Californians.

Over 3,700 U.S. service personnel have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, including more than 400 from California. Over 800 members of the state’s National Guard are serving next to thousands of Californians who are in the regular military.

“Your statements urging an end to the war garnered national attention,” the measure’s sponsor, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, wrote in a letter to Schwarzenegger. “Regrettably, the voices of everyday Californians — mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters of soldiers serving in Iraq — aren’t being heard. Ignore the politics, trust the people.”

SEATTLE: Going condo crazy

“I love this country. I’m not against capitalism and I’m not against free enterprise,” said Loch Vista resident Tad Van Patten. Loch Vista is a large, privately owned apartment complex, home to many of the city’s artists. “But I’m getting the impression that the land of opportunity is turning into the land of unbridled savagery.”

Van Patten and 200 of his neighbors are facing the sale of the complex to a developer who plans to convert apartments into condominiums, driving out medium- to low-wage workers.

Miko Robertson, 28, pays $760 a month for a one-bedroom apartment at Loch Vista and makes a monthly payment on her student loans. She believes, as most residents, that the developer will charge $250,000 per condo. She and many Loch Vista renters are appealing to the city to buy the complex. “I was hoping to live here for a very long time,” she said. “I don’t think the city should be forcing us to live above our means.”

Residents have met with city officials who agreed to try to find the money to buy Loch Vista.

In 2006, 2,300 apartments were converted into condominiums, more than five times the number in 2004. So far this year, developers have changed 1,500 rental units to condos.

DICKSON, Tenn.: Environmental racism on Senate stage

For three generations Shelia Holt-Orsted’s family owned a 150-acre farm near Dickson, Tenn., a predominately African American town. The family’s wells were poisoned by a leaky landfill, located 54 feet from their property.

When her father Harry died of cancer in January, just the most recent death in what scientists have called a “cancer cluster,” Holt-Orsted had enough. Despite federal and state officials telling the family that their land and water were safe, Holt-Orsted took action. She organized her neighbors and wrote articles and letters that were picked up by many, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

At Sen. Clinton’s invitation, Holt Orsted testified before the first ever Senate hearing on environmental racism in late August. It realized her father’s dream that the federal government needs to take action and not ignore African American and other communities of color around the country.

In response to a 1988 study, “Toxic Waste and Race in the United States,” then President Bill Clinton ordered the EPA to focus on African American and other minority communities suffering from deadly corporate or governmental pollution. This order halted with the election of Bush.

“Getting the government to respond to the environmental and health concerns of low-income people and people of color communities has been an uphill struggle long before the world witnessed the disastrous Hurricane Katrina response two years ago,” Dr. Robert Bullard of Clark Atlanta University told the Senate committee, urging that President Clinton’s Executive Order 12898 become law. “It should not be at the whim of whether an administration wants to do or not.”

DURHAM, N.C.: Woman named to lead top medical school

While women have reached near equity in admittance into medical school, the glass ceiling of running the school has been firmly in place until now. Nancy Andrews, M.D., Ph.D., has been named dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, named one of the top five in the country.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, in 2005 women comprised 49.5 percent of total enrollment in medical schools but only 14 percent of the teachers. In 1990, only 1 woman served as dean of a medical school. By 2000, that number limped to six.

Andrews told National Public Radio that she is looking forward to the day when such an appointment does not make the news because the glass ceiling had been shattered.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696 Marilyn Bechtel contributed to this week’s clips.


Denise Winebrenner Edwards
Denise Winebrenner Edwards

Denise Winebrenner Edwards is a long-time trade union and community activist. She lives in western Pennsylvania.